Kesava Dev was an orator par excellence. Dev had developed his ability
to address a group, very early in his life when he was a member of the
yuvajana Samajam at an early age of about fifteen. The Samajam
used to meet on the last Sunday of every month with V.A Gopalan Nair as
the chairman. One day while participating in a discussion he spoke against
untouchability. That was his first speech. At that meeting attended by
hardly twenty persons, he spoke at such high pitch as if there were two
As a speaker the first person who influenced Kesava Dev was Sahodaran
Ayyappan, more particularly his speech at Alwaye sand bank against the
caste system. Dev later travelled to Vaikkam to witness the Sathyagraha
and to listen to the speeches delivered there. He realized that speeches
conveyed much information and provided ready-made knowledge and that it
created a deeper awareness among a larger section of the people.
His association with Arya Samaj gave him a wider exposure to speeches
delivered by many leaders. Besides, Kesava Dev was now well acquainted
with great writers like Leo Tolstoy, Maxim Gorky, kunt Hamsun and Romain
Rolland. He read Ten days that shook the world by John read
written about the Russian Revolution Dev was attracted to communism. He
declared himself a communist, sported a red shirt and kept on speaking
about the Revolution. He at that time believed that conditions were ripe
in India for the next revolution. His first speech calling for a total
revolution was made Cherai.
Kesava Devs fame as a speaker soon started spreading and he started
receiving invitations from far and near. After each speech Dev used to
make a self-evaluation. Once at Kanjirapilly he employed a different technique
to gain the attention of the audience. He quoted from Maxim Gorky, the
story of robbing the coffin for bread and wine. The speech was a success.
Public speaking became a passion for Dev. He was looking forward to address
the coir workers of Alleppey. They were the most exploited lot at that
time. Dev was invited to address the Annual Day Celebration of the coir
factory. While all other speakers gave moral teachings to the workers
Dev stood up and exorted them to fight for their rights and privileges.
The workers applauded him and encouraged him. He addressed the Naval workers
union at Klappana and compared Divan Sir.C.P.Ramaswamy Iyer to Rasputin
of Russia. The Chairman adjourned the meeting but the crowd remained and
listened to him in rapt attention. Dev was subsequently banned from making
speeches at Kollam and Kottayam districts.
Though initially Dev had upheld the Communist ideals, he was disillusioned
by the post Revolutionary changes in Russia. He had no hesitation to speak
against communism with vehemance. After the adoption of Calcutta Thesis,
there was an attempt to adopt a manifesto at the progressive Literacy
Conference held at Trichur. Kesava Devs persuasive speech averted
that disaster by walking out of the meeting and all delegates followed
As the Sahithya Parishad meeting held at Tellichery in 1934 Dev set fire
to a big controversy by exhorting that art and literature must be brought
down from the ivory towers to common man. In yet another meeting he questioned
the credibility of Ezhuthachan.
At the Sahithya Parishad meeting held at Trivandrum, he introduced himself
as the literary scheduled caste in front of an august audience. His sarcasm
was well directed and it had the desired effect.
Dev had scant regard for literary theoreticians and critics.
He made use of every opportunity to slash them and tease them as technicians
and mechanics. Dev had a sharp tongue and rare ability to carry the crowd
with him. He spoke with much conviction-conviction born out of the courage
he earned through his life.
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